H&M breaks down Balmain-ia

With troops of fashion pros and Hollywood A-listers, #HMBalmaination took over Wall Street, New York, this week. Mattie Kahn reports, minute-by-minute, from this year’s most glam and bold fashion event.
October 24, 2015

The latest recruit to collaborate on a limited-edition collection for H&M showed what he was made of this week. On Tuesday, Olivier Rousteing debuted his explosive new line at the Balmain x H&M show in New York. This is not a drill. 

19:00: At 23 Wall Street, the battalions gather. Clad in sequins and silver beads and second-skin leather, invitees march in to salute Balmain x H&M. There have never been more glamorous exercises. 

19:09: Inside, the troops spread out. Women in shimmering pink and forest green and head-to-toe black knock back minty cocktails and nibble on squares of miniaturized bites—shrunken beef carpaccio, eensy tuna tartare, a square of spinach festooned in a strip of lemon zest. When H&M and Balmain throw a party, even the food is embellished.    

19:30: A DJ spins what should be the soundtrack to the event: This is How We Do It. Indeed, it is.

19:34: Outfitted in a spectacular mini dress from the collection, Ellie Goulding stops for a few snapshots and dives into the melee. “It’s been a long day,” she admits. She releases her new album in November. Until then, Goulding is “the busiest girl.” But she would never miss the chance to celebrate Balmain x H&M: “Everything that Olivier [Rousteing] makes is really very sexy, but classic and elegant, too. I’m always trying to find the perfect combination of all of that. So, when I saw the H&M range, I was like, ‘Nailed it.’” 

19:44: At least a million flashbulbs detonate at once, which can only mean that a Jenner has arrived. It’s Kylie—all legs and lips and polish. When the starlet sweeps into the room, jaws drop. 

The battalions gather. Clad in sequins and silver beads and second-skin leather, invitees march in to salute Balmain x H&M.
Mattie Kahn

19:52: Behind her, Kendall Jenner makes her entrance. Satin clutches and hot dates are nice, but Kendall is better accessorized. She has Gigi Hadid on her arm. 

20:02: Supermodel Alek Wek slinks inside, pausing to twirl in a bedazzled fuschia sheath for curious onlookers. Meanwhile, actor Zachary Quinto and model boyfriend Miles McMillan make a beeline for the bar to have a quick drink before the show starts. “I love the fact that this collaborations allows people to express themselves in ways that they might not otherwise be able to,” Quinto explains, nodding toward his striped sweater from the collection. “It makes us all look good.” He smiles: “Cheers to that.”  

20:14: Elsewhere, Soo Joo Park chimes in. The model has been a Balmain devotee “from the beginning.” 

“I saw the clothes and I identified with them,” she remembers. “Balmain is all about strong women. It’s very empowering. I’ve always loved that.” For her part, Coco Rocha is more emboldened than ever. A new mom, she declares that she is no less a #BalmainGirl. “This year was the first time I ever sat to watch Balmain [during Fashion Week],” she muses. “It was his best yet, I think.” And while Rocha wishes she could have taken it all home with her, she concedes that Balmain x H&M is filled with more realistic purchases. “I will be shopping tonight,” she promises. 

20:17: With that, we duck inside the main hall. A massive staircase greets us, guiding us to low benches and our perches for the show. 

20:24: An elaborate video fills giant screens, treating us to a super futuristic and very fashionable battle. No surprise: The Kendalls (led by Kendall Jenner, of course) wins. “Next stop,” a voiceover promises, “#HMBalmaination.” 

20:27: No sooner did the screens go dark than a militia of contortionists and dancers springs into action. The platoon is evidence that Balmain and H&M worship all women. They are short and tall and blonde and black. A purple-haired dancer gyrates to the beat. And then come the models. 

20:30: It is a procession of unreal beauty—Kendall! Gigi! Jourdan Dunn! Karlie Kloss! Each braves the split-level set to give attendees on both levels a good look at the collection. They are all immaculate, of course. But the aesthetic is perfectly undone. Hair is worn in lived-in waves. Makeup is sexed-up and slept-in. A model tucks in only the front of a satiny yellow blouse, letting the back billow behind her. She looks like a goddess. 

A blast of confetti closes out the festivities and directs show-goers to more serious business. A pop-up shop has opened downstairs.
Mattie Kahn

20:33: “Alessandra Ambrosia is my spirit animal!” a man cries when the model stomps down the runway. Ours, too. 

20:51: The dancers return and Rousteing does a brisk lap in his own clothes to celebrate, proving that there is nothing sexier than a man in the Balmain uniform.  

20:55: To roars and cheers and the tune of thousands of Snapchat stories, the Backstreet Boys storm the venue for a surprise concert. The boy-banders croon Everybody, I Want it That Way, and Larger than Life, which Kendall and Gigi belt out from the front row. As they near the end of the set, Zachary Quinto sneaks toward the performers. Wearing Balmain x H&M and taking selfies with fans, they are exactly the kind of people you want to be closer to. 

21:03: A blast of confetti closes out the festivities and directs show-goers to more serious business. A  pop-up shop has opened downstairs. 

21:42: There, Joan Smalls grips a leather backpack and Lewis Hamilton snatches a red leather jacket. Bella Hadid checks out behind Coco Rocha, and this writer nabs a coveted pair of shoes from the stockpile. 

#HMBalmaination, mission accomplished. 


The Balmain x H&M collection features fashion and accessories for both men and women, and will be available in selected stores and on hm.com starting November 5. 

Model Soo-Joo Park looked amazing front row.

Model Soo-Joo Park looked amazing front row.

Balmain is all about strong women. It’s very empowering. I’ve always loved that.
Model Soo Joo Park